Kids and technology. It seems to be a love-hate relationship for parents. For me these days it’s more of a hate relationship. Everywhere I go I am seeing more kids plugged into technology, glued to a screen, walking around like zombies. This frustrates me and makes me sad at the same time.
I wish we could rewind to the days when Atari was considered ground-breaking technology and the thought of having a cell phone seemed like something only the Jetsons could achieve. But, the reality is many kids are obsessed with their various devices to the point they don’t know how to have a conversation or use their imagination.
Market research found that children ages five to sixteen spend six and a half hours in front of a screen everyday! If you take into consideration the fact that they sleep for at least eight hours if not more, that means there’s less than ten hours left in the day. When you factor in school and activities, there’s hardly anytime left to have a simple conversation. Is it too late to unplug our kids or have we lost them to technology forever? I guess it depends what side of the screen you’re on.
Have you ever watched a child while they’re on a device? It’s like they’re in a trance. It totally consumes them. Part of me thinks that’s why so many parents let their kids spend so much time on them. It acts like a free babysitter. No parenting required. No interaction needed. Sad isn’t it?
Before you think I’m a technology hating mother who only lets my kids play with pen and paper, I will tell you my kids do play games on my iPad and my phone. But, they do not have their own devices. Why do a 7 and 5 year-old need their own iPads or tablets or kindles? I’m sure many people have their reasons, but they’re not enough for me to take out my credit card.
I am fully aware that kids need to understand and work technology to exist these days and to compete with the rest of the world. I know there are a lot of educational apps and games and books to read. Does that mean we throw out real conversations and books or imaginary play or the arts? I surely hope not. From what I see that seems to be where we’re headed, if we’re not there already. So many kids don’t know how to interact with real people because they spend so much time interacting with their devices.
In order to change the tide, there needs to be balance, as with anything in life. While my kids are allowed to use technology on a daily basis, I usually limit their usage to 15 minute intervals. Once the time is up they have to go and do something else that doesn’t involve a screen. Most of the time they agree, other times I’m “mean.” I can live with that title if the result is that my kids go out and play or use their imagination instead of gluing their eyes to a screen.
When it comes to technology addiction many kids are only copying what they see their parents do. Truthfully there are times when we’re no better. I know I’ve been guilty of a little phone addiction every now and again. Do we really need to constantly check our Facebook feed to see who is blowing their nose every minute? I think we all know the answer to that.
That’s why I have a little rule called “no phones at the table”. It means just what it says. My husband and I are not allowed to have our phones at the table when we’re having a meal. This way we can pay attention to each other and have real conversations. Crazy, I know. But, it works.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tempting to run over and check a dinging text or go back and finish scrolling through Facebook. But, it’s also important to set an example. If kids see their parents glued to their devices, they may be more inclined to do the same. If we set the example that technology is not king, then maybe we can start to slowly unplug our kids, one device at a time. Hopefully it’s not too late.